Wednesday, August 17

Is The Trinity Biblical?

The Trinity is a doctrine taught by many Christians which states that God is one, but exists in what can best be expressed as three persons. Jehovah's Witnesses deny the Trinity, claim that God exists in only one person and that Jesus was once the archangel Michael,[1,2] whereas Mormonism claims that the Trinity is three separate gods, and that the Father himself had a Father.[3] Various other religions, cults and denominations deny the Trinity: that God the Father, God the Son (Jesus) and God the Spirit (The Holy Spirit) exist as one God in three persons. This is also known as the Godhead - three in one. In past entries, we have attempted to establish that Jesus did indeed claim to be God, and have answered common objections concerning the deity of Christ. But is the Trinity biblical, and is it illogical to posit that three can exist in one? (Photo credit: GQ Ministries, Lucas the Elder)

God's Word is clear when it teaches that there is only one God, as shown by Isaiah 44:6 and 8 which says, "...I am the first and the last, apart from me there is no God... Is there any God besides me? No, there is no other rock," (cf. Revelation 22:13) as well as Deuteronomy 6:4 which says, "Hear O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one," along with Deuteronomy 32:39, "See now that I myself am He! There is no god beside me..." The claim that there are other gods and that God had a Father is illogical in that it would follow an infinite regression of gods - there would be no first to begin the cycle of eternal progression taught by the Mormon church. God declared in Isaiah 43:10, "...Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me," eliminating all speculation. Though some claim that 1st Corinthians 8:5-6, which refers to other "gods," supports the idea of more than one god, this is contrary to the plain teaching of both the Old and the New Testament, and it should be noted that St. Paul calls these false gods, "so-called gods" (see also Galatians 4:8). Ephesians 4:6 also teaches that there is one God, as does 1st Corinthians 8:6 (see also James 2:9; Mark 12:29).

There are various verses which proclaim that Jesus is God, whose deity is further defended in prior articles. Consider John 20:28, in which Thomas calls Jesus "My Lord and my God." In Titus 2:13, Jesus is called "our great God and Savior," with 2nd Peter 1:1 also calling Jesus Christ "our God and Savior." In passages such as John 10:30-33, it is clear that Jesus claimed to be God - "I and the Father are one" - affirmed when the crowd picked up rocks to stone Him and said, "We are not stoning you for any good work, but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God" (emphasis mine). This is also evident in other passages through the New Testament, where God claims to be "I AM" (cf. Exodus 3), receives and accepts worship, forgives sin, among other things. John 1, Colossians 1, Philippians 2 and Hebrews 1 also make clear that Jesus is God, equal in nature to the Father, and Jesus is in fact called God by the Father in Hebrews 1:8-9. Jesus is God the Son - meaning that He is equal in nature, not the biological son. Colossians 2:9 also clarifies, "For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form." See also Matthew 4:7, in which Jesus declares, quoting Scripture, "It is written again, 'You shall not tempt the Lord your God.'"

Credit: GQ Ministries
The Holy Spirit is also called God on different occasions. Consider Acts 5:3-4, "Then Peter said, 'Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit... You have not lied just to human beings but to God" (see also 1st Corinthians 3:16). It is clear from other passages such as Acts 13:2 that the Holy Spirit is not some impersonal active force, but a person in the Trinity who can speak. We also see that the Holy Spirit possesses the attributes of God: omniscience (1st Corinthians 2:11), eternal (Hebrews 9:14), truth (John 16:13), omnipresence (Psalm 139:7), and others. The Holy Spirit is also called the Spirit of God, the Spirit of the Lord, and God Himself calls the Holy Spirit, His "Spirit," on several occasions. For example, He is called the "Spirit of God" in Genesis 1:2, God calls Him "My Spirit" in Genesis 6:3, "the Spirit" and "his Spirit" in Numbers 11:25 and 29, respectively.

He is also called the "Spirit of God" in Numbers 24:2, the "Spirit of the Lord" in Judges 3:10, 6:34, 13:25, 14:6 and 19, as well as Judges 15:14. 1st Samuel 10:6 calls Him the "Spirit of the Lord" and 10:10 calls Him the "Spirit of God," as does 11:6, and is called the "Spirit of the Lord" again in 1st Samuel 16:13-14. He appears several times all throughout the Hebrew Bible, such as Nehemiah 9:20, "your good Spirit," and 9:30, "your Spirit," Job 34:14 calls Him, "his spirit," among other references. Psalm 51:11 says, "Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me" (emphasis mine). He is also called "your Spirit" (referring to God) in Psalm 104:30 and 138:7, and "your good Spirit" in Psalm 143:10. Speaking of the coming of Jesus, Isaiah 11:2 says, "The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him - the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the LORD." Isaiah 32:15 calls Him "the Spirit," Isaiah 34:16 calls Him "his Spirit," God calls Him "my Spirit" in Isaiah 42:1, as well as 44:3. He is called the "Spirit of the Sovereign Lord" in Isaiah 61:1,  and "his Holy Spirit" twice in Isaiah 63:10-11.

In Ezekiel 36:27, God calls Him "my Spirit," as well as in Joel 2:28, and Haggai 2:5. The Holy Spirit is mentioned and appears several other times within the Hebrew Bible, too numerous to mention here. Romans 8:9 also calls Him the "Spirit of Christ," making Him equal to both the Father and the Son. The deity of the Father need not be examined, as it is clear that the Hebrew Bible and New Testament teach that the Father is also God (see Galatians 1:1, 3; Ephesians 1:2-3) . Some people liken the Trinity unto a Pyramid: one Pyramid, yet it has three sides, or three corners. Another analogy that has been used involves water: water can exist in three phases of solid, liquid and gas, yet in each case it is still water. Likewise, God is one, yet exists in three distinct (not separate) persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Matthew 28:19 refers to the Trinity, "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." Though it is true that the word "Trinity" (tri-unity) is not found in Scripture, it is a descriptive word used of a concept clearly taught in Scripture.

Ephesians 4:4-6 conveys, "There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all." Jesus is called Lord and God, as is the Father and the Spirit - it is clear that the three exist in one, as there is one Spirit, one Lord, one God, and all three persons are called under the three titles in different instances. 2nd Corinthians 13:14 says, "May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all." The unity of the Trinity can be seen in these passages. With our finite minds, it is impossible to fully comprehend an infinite God, yet He has provided us with sufficient information.


All three persons in the Trinity are presented at the baptism of Jesus in Matthew 3:16-17 which reads, "As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, 'This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.'" John the Baptist confirmed this in his testimony recorded in John 1:29-34. In fact, Genesis 1:1 introduces God as "Elohim," which is plural. We also find in Genesis 1:26, "Then God said, 'Let us make human beings in our image, in our likeness..." (emphasis mine). Nowhere in Scripture does it say that man was made in the image of angels. Who is the "us" and "our" that is then referred to? Evidently, the Father is speaking to the Son and the Spirit. Genesis 3:22 also says, "And the LORD God said, 'The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever'" (emphasis mine). God kept man from eating from the tree of life so that we would not live forever in our sins, but in death through Christ have eternal life, free of sin, in Heaven - if we accept Christ.

The Trinity appears to also be present in Genesis 11:7, in which God says, "Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understanding each other" (emphasis mine). The "us" (plural in both Hebrew and English) allows for the Trinity's presence. Isaiah 6:8 says, "Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, 'Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?' And I said, 'Here am I. Send me!'" (emphasis mine). The Trinity also appears in Isaiah 48:16-17, in which all three persons are explicitly mentioned. "There is subordination within the Trinity. Scripture shows that the Holy Spirit is subordinate to the Father and the Son, and the Son is subordinate to the Father. This is an internal relationship and does not deny the deity of any Person of the Trinity. This is simply an area which our finite minds cannot understand concerning the infinite God. Concerning the Son see Luke 22:42, John 5:36, John 20:21, and 1 John 4:14. Concerning the Holy Spirit see John 14:16, 14:26, 15:26, 16:7, and especially John 16:13-14."[4]

"The individual members of the Trinity have different tasks. The Father is the ultimate source or cause of the universe (1 Corinthians 8:6; Revelation 4:11); divine revelation (Revelation 1:1); salvation (John 3:16-17); and Jesus' human works (John 5:17; 14:10). The Father initiates all of these things. The Son is the agent through whom the Father does the following works: the creation and maintenance of the universe (1 Corinthians 8:6; John 1:3; Colossians 1:16-17); divine revelation (John 1:1, 16:12-15; Matthew 11:27; Revelation 1:1); and salvation (2 Corinthians 5:19; Matthew 1:21; John 4:42). The Father does all these things through the Son, who functions as His agent. The Holy Spirit is the means by whom the Father does the following works: creation and maintenance of the universe (Genesis 1:2; Job 26:13; Psalm 104:30); divine revelation (John 16:12-15; Ephesians 3:5; 2 Peter 1:21); salvation (John 3:6; Titus 3:5; 1 Peter 1:2); and Jesus' works (Isaiah 61:1; Acts 10:38). Thus, the Father does all these things by the power of the Holy Spirit."[5]

All three members of the Trinity were involved in the creation of the universe. The Father (Genesis 1:1), the Son (John 1:1 and 3, Colossians 1:16), and the Holy Spirit (Genesis 1:2, Psalm 104:30). All three participated in the Creation of the world, and all three are one as God. The word Trinity, as noted, is used by Christians to express the doctrine of God existing as one in three persons. The word itself came from the Greek word trias, first used by Theophilus (168-183 AD), or from the Latin word, trinitas, which was first used by Tertullian (220 AD).[6] Although the Father, Son and Spirit are equal in divine nature, the Father is placed in a higher position in the hierarchy and authority as the incarnate Son (John 14:28, 13:16; 1st Corinthians 11:3; Philippians 2:6-8). This does not negate the deity of Christ as God, but allows us to better understand the relational status between the Father and the Son, and also provides a good model for children to follow: we ought to be obedient to our parents (though in Christ's case, the Father is not His biological father). What of the Jehovah's Witnesses claim that John 1:1 calls Jesus "a god," rather than "God"?

"The Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Jesus is not Jehovah God. Instead, they believe that He is a god but not the one and only true God. Jehovah’s Witnesses have their own version of the Bible called the New World Translation. This version translates John 1:1 erroneously. While the inerrant Word of God states, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (John 1:1), the New World Translation presents the last phrase of the verse this way: “and the Word was a god” (emphasis added). The article “a” is not in the original Greek. A rule in Greek grammar states that when an anarthrous (no article) predicate nominative is present it is for emphasis. The noun is “Word” and the predicate nominative is “God.” Since no article is present before the predicate nominative, “God,” the verse is testifying that the Word (Jesus) is God. By denying the Trinity and teaching that Jehovah God is supreme and Jesus is an inferior god on the order of Michael the Archangel, the Jehovah’s Witnesses are actually polytheistic—they believe in multiple gods."[7]

Did God perform the greatest act of love? Jesus said in John 15:13, "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends." Though some commentators argue that Jesus did not say "greatest" but "greater," nevertheless, Jesus, who was God, "appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory" (1st Timothy 3:16, in which St. Paul says that God manifested in flesh). Jesus performed the greatest act of love by dying on the cross for His creation, contrary to the teachings of cults and other religions. Indeed, 1st Timothy 4:1 says, "The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons."

But what of other religions and the doctrine of the Trinity? According to the Institute for Creation Research, "It is significant that Biblical Christianity is the only Trinitarian religion—and therefore the only true religion—in the world. Most religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, etc.) are pantheistic and humanistic, denying the existence of an omnipotent God who created the space/time cosmos. There are two other major religions, however, that are monotheistic, believing in the God of creation and in the creation record in Genesis—Judaism and Islam. However, these two fail to understand that the Creator must also be the Redeemer, and therefore they also become humanistic, believing that man must achieve salvation by his own efforts. Further, they also fail to acknowledge that God’s objective work of redemption must be made subjective in each person by the indwelling personal presence of the omnipresent Creator/Redeemer."[8] 

Lucas the Elder's portrayal of the Trinity
ICR also conveys, concerning the Triune nature of the universe, "There is an immeasurably and unimaginably huge universe out there (even though the most important part of it appears to be here). The physical universe is "temporal"—its physical characteristics are defined qualitatively and quantitatively in and by time, space, and mass/energy (usually abbreviated as just "matter"). Any effort to determine the cause of the universe is purely hypothetical. No human was there to observe the processes, so any attempt to understand events of pre-history (especially original events) must, therefore, be based on "belief systems," or presuppositions. While the theories and ideas may be many, the presuppositions can only be of two sorts: 1) there is an infinite series of causes, going back into infinite time, with no ultimate Cause; or 2) there exists an uncaused First Cause that was "outside" or transcendent to the universe. Many scientists today conduct their research based on their presupposition or belief that nothing exists beyond the natural world—that which can be seen around us—and thus they do not accept that any ultimate Cause exists."[9]

They conclude, "Scientists at ICR hold to the presupposition that the "uncaused First Cause" is the Creator who exists outside of the physical creation He made. Time is not eternal, but created. To ask what happened in time before time was created is to create a false paradox without meaning. There was no "before" prior to the creation of the triune universe of time, space, and mass/energy. Yet even more amazing (and the universe is amazing) is the historic fact that the Creator-God, after purposefully creating the time-space-matter universe, chose to enter it in the God-human person of Jesus Christ—for the sole purpose of providing a means by which humanity could have a personal relationship with the Creator."[10] Indeed, the universe around us appears to have the triune nature of God projected into it. Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons may deny the essential doctrine of the Trinity, whereas Judaism also denies it - as does Islam. Some claim that the Trinity is illogical, being three-in-one. The Trinity may be fully beyond reason, but it is not against reason. "The Trinity does not entail three gods in one God, or three persons in one person. Such claims would be nonsensical. There is nothing contradictory, however, in affirming three persons in one God (or three whos in one what)."[11] Concerning whether or not the Trinity is a pagan doctrine rooted in ancient Babylon and Assyria as some have claimed, "the Babylonians and Assyrians believed in triads of gods who headed up a pantheon of many other gods. These triads constituted three separate gods (polytheism), which is utterly different from the doctrine of the Trinity that maintains that there is only one God (monotheism) with three persons in one godhead."[12]

There is no perfect way of understanding the Trinity, and the very concept does indeed merit life-long studies. There is no perfect analogy, as they have their flaws, but they do allow us to understand certain aspects of the Trinity a bit better. Consider the brain, an eye and an ear - three distinct parts of my body which perform different functions, all of which are part of one body. St. Patrick of Ireland used the analogy of a shamrock leaf to illustrate that belief in something that is three in one can be found in many places: the shamrock has three leaflets but only one stem. Jesus, who is God the Son, entered into His creation to redeem us. 

Thank you for taking the time to read this entry of "The Truth," dear reader. Feel free to email us at vexx801@yahoo.com or thetruth.ministryweb@gmail.com, visit our facebook page, or visit our ministry website.  If you have any further questions on the deity of Jesus, His historicity and the Trinity in general, feel free to email us - but we ask that you remain civil. It is the mission of this ministry to "demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ" (2nd Corinthians 10:5). We also understand that many will disagree with our position, our claims and our ministry, and we recognize the individual's right to believe what he or she wills, but it is our hope that you will carefully consider Christianity. Take care, and God bless you reader. Troy Hillman

Sources:
[1] Let God be True. p.100-101. Print.
[2] Make Sure of All Things. p.386. Print.
[3] Talmage, James. Journal of Discourses, Vol.6, p.5. Print.
[4] "What does the Bible teach about the Trinity?." Got Questions.org. Got Questions Network, n.d. Web. 16 Aug 2011. < http://thetruth-blog.blogspot.com/2011/05/does-god-exist-part-one.html >.
[5] Ibid.
[6] "Trinity." WebBible Encyclopedia. Christian Answers Network, n.d. Web. 15 Aug 2011. < http://www.christiananswers.net/dictionary/trinity.html >.
[7] Martin, Jobe. "Is the Trinity Three Different Gods?." Answers In Genesis. Answers In Genesis, 19 July 2011. Web. 15 Aug 2011. < http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2011/07/19/trinity-three-different-gods >.
[8] Morris, Ph.D., Henry M. "The Trinity In The Old Testament." ICR. Institute for Creation Research, n.d. Web. 15 Aug 2011. < http://www.icr.org/article/21595/ >.
[9] "Time, Space, and Matter." ICR. Institute for Creation Research, n.d. Web. 16 Aug 2011. < http://www.icr.org/first-cause/ >.
[10] Ibid.
[11] Rhodes, Dr. Ron. The New Answers Book 2 (Chapter 19: Is Jesus God?). 5th ed. 2. Green Forest, Arkansas: Master Books, 2009. 192. Print.
[12] Ibid, p.193.

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